In recent years, many workplaces have made strides to invest in diversity and inclusion within their workforces. And while this is a wonderful thing, there’s still a very long way to go, that will require daily effort from everyone. Even if we aren’t at the manager level yet in our careers, we all have a unique opportunity to create change — not only in our offices, but also at home and in our communities.
To explore some of the most impactful ways we can be more inclusive in all areas of our life, we turned to Black female leaders for their insight and perspective.
Encourage collaboration and make sure every voice has an opportunity to be heard
“This is not as simple as having a brainstorming session or an open discussion forum. There has to be an understanding from leadership that not everyone has the same comfort level when it comes to speaking up in these situations, particularly those who are more introverted. While brainstorming sessions can be great when it comes to encouraging collaboration, as leaders, we need to acknowledge that not everyone can think on the fly quickly, and is then comfortable sharing their ideas. One way to combat this is to share the agenda of the open discussion a few days before the session so that employees have time to prepare. This gives people who are not as comfortable speaking up an opportunity to think through and even rehearse what they want to say, which helps them feel more comfortable speaking up.” — Gillian Williams, partner and Founder at Monday Talent
Adopt a mindset of shared responsibility
“Women can be more inclusive of each other if we all adopt a mindset of shared responsibility. Shared responsibility means no one is left out. I am responsible for acknowledging you when you enter the room. I am responsible for following up and introducing myself when you’re new on a call. I am responsible for inviting you for coffee or a chat over Zoom to get to know you, whether professional or personal. The expectation of being inclusive starts with all of us. I love surrounding myself with women from all walks of life. Life is an opportunity to explore and embrace different places, people, and things. I love traveling across the country and to other countries. I engross myself in each place’s culture, food, art, and history. The differences of people, particularly women, bring life and richness to each place. The way they dress, their work, and how they care for their families. Connecting and gaining friendships with diverse women makes me a better person.” — Sherrill Mosee, founder of Minkee Blue
Find growth in discomfort
“A way that you can become more inclusive as a leader is to run towards opportunities to engage with people from a variety of backgrounds and respect their outlook and perspective. There is a lot of growth that comes from discomfort and being challenged. You will not know the possibilities of how you can enhance your team or personal life without taking into account those who are different from you. Challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone by sparking conversation with someone who you’d normally not talk to, participate in a new activity of a different culture, or listen to a podcast that you typically would not subscribe to to expand your mind so that you can broaden your understanding of diverse individuals, experiences, and viewpoints and innately become more inclusive.” — Bianca Rush, founder of SassyHairCap.com
Create conversations around the dinner table
“I think it’s important to take control of your decisions and actions that you make daily; some will be positive while others not so much, especially with my children. Every decision comes with consequences, so take your time and make the right decisions rather than bad ones; however, the balance of work/ life does get in the way. The way we react to situations, how we talk, and how we treat people around us all tie into our family dynamics. Creating conversations around the dinner table also is another way; mentoring our children is another. I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak to a local high school regarding being a woman of color in business, and how we can cohesively work together to create the changes we need to see along with debunking myths.” — Hillary Jean, owner of HJ Boutique
Take time to self-reflect
“To be more inclusive, we must first be aware of where we aren’t being inclusive. Taking the time to self-reflect and becoming aware of our social and emotional blindspots and the biases we carry is essential if we’re going to create an environment at home, work, or in an inclusive world. Consider the identity of the people in your social, professional, and cultural circles — when it comes to ability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexuality – how do the people in your life identify? Write it down. The purpose of this social inventory is to help you understand how diverse or homogenous your environment is and shed light on the areas where you can be intentional about making connections with different people. Read books, listen to podcasts, engage in honest conversations, and learn about people, places, and identities different from yours. To be more inclusive requires consistent work and a commitment to seeing new perspectives exploring new ideas.” — Michelle Felder, LCSW, MA, founder and CEO of Parenting Pathfinders
“A great way to be inclusive within the workplace is to ask others questions. Leaders need to establish a safe team environment where employees aren’t afraid to be inquisitive, feel heard, and included. Setting up a one-on-one conversation with each employee will help you learn more about how they’re feeling, what challenges they’re facing, how business decisions affect them and those around them, and how their overall experience is going within the company. Sometimes, employees are intimidated to approach their leader, speak their truths, and ask questions. Still, by allowing them to speak up, it will hopefully result in you becoming an ally to those within your company.” — Samia Gore, founder and CEO of Body Complete RX
Shop Black-owned businesses
“When shopping local or online, buy from Black-owned businesses. Buying from Black-owned businesses creates greater economic equality and helps bring long-term change right in your own community. Resources like the 15% Pledge easily help consumers make informed decisions. It’s a small, significant change one can make in an instant.” — Megan Graham, founder of Ries.
Check yourself — and be transparent
“No matter your creed, race, or gender, check yourself and make sure you aren’t coming from a place of privilege. Are the systems in place on your side? Then you may have some level of privilege. Take a moment to take stock of your privilege and consider how it may affect others. This is hard, even for those with diversity and inclusion at the top of mind. Once you take stock, let that inform your decisions and treat others. When we show up as our best selves, we inadvertently permit others to do the same. Our friends and family are doing their best, but it’s essential to be aware of circumstances outside of your relationship. Ask real questions that will make them provide in-depth answers. Please don’t assume a smile means they are happy. For some, a smile is how they greet others, but it’s not a reflection of their emotions. To be more inclusive in your personal life is to be more mindful.” — Kiana Montgomery, head publicist and owner of Ki Takeaways
Intentionally change your habits
“Improving inclusivity comes down to intentionally changing habits. Frequenting different places will force you to talk to different people within the workplace. For instance, if, for lunch, you usually go to a certain neighborhood, cafeteria or park, choose a different location. This way, when you’re looking for volunteers for that new committee, some other folks and groups will start to come to mind. Also, when you’re looking for those volunteers or posting positions, don’t be instinctive, doing it on auto-pilot. Think of new places to put your flyers, new job sites to post on. The same applies in your personal life: Don’t go to the movie theater in the same neighborhood that you always do. Find a new part of town for your dinner and movie date. Make an effort to chat with the hostess and folks waiting for a table. Go to a coffee shop, grocery store, post office, UPS store, and so on, in a different neighborhood and chat it up. Those small steps of intentionally changing habits will start to broaden your view and allow you to open your perspective resulting in improved inclusivity naturally.” — Adria Marshall, founder and CEO of Eco Slay
Embrace intervention as a skill
“Bias is a concept we are all familiar with by now. I think of bias as a bullet train — its path is fast and familiar. Without conscious interruption, it will go where it has always gone and picked up whom it has always picked up. It will also run some people over. Unless someone or something stops it in its tracks, nothing will change. We may change our work processes to be more inclusive, but our people implement these processes. Since not all people are equally committed to change, we need leaders who are willing to intervene and redirect when exclusive choices and behaviors rear their ugly heads.” — Tara Jaye Frank, equity strategist
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